Jerusalem Rebuilt

May 12, 2002 / No. 3097

Dear radio friends,

     Our message today is based on Jeremiah 30:18, 19:   “Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.  And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry:  and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.” 

     That Word of God tells us what God will do and the joy that will result from His doing it.  It is a text that speaks of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem after seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity, something that took place roughly 500 years before our Lord Jesus Christ was born.  It is a figure to us of the salvation that God will bring for His church, of how God will bring a people to Himself out of the heaps and ruins of sin. 

     The Scriptures emphasize to us that this work of salvation is God’s work.  We read, “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob … I will multiply them, … I will also glorify them.”  It is not only a divine work, that is, God’s work.  But it is a glorious work.  Salvation is a work that is filled with the splendor of God’s grace.  It is something that provokes wonder and eruption of thanksgiving in our hearts.

     Now, for a few moments, let us consider this glorious truth of the salvation that God has given and will continue to work in the hearts of His children.  Our theme will be:  Jerusalem Rebuilt.

     The circumstances during the days of the prophet Jeremiah were difficult circumstances.  He was sent of God to be a prophet to the people of Judah shortly before their destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  Jeremiah, you might recall, prophesied the Word of the Lord that Judah and Jerusalem would be overthrown for their sins and laid waste by the kingdom of Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.  For this prophecy, Jeremiah was made to suffer greatly at the hands of the people.  He endured reproach and contempt from a people who were hardened against their God and would not hear the voice of God’s messenger Jeremiah.  During his own day Jerusalem was being attacked by a fierce enemy and relentless foe.  Day by day Jerusalem was becoming weaker and weaker.  And Jerusalem was, in fact, destroyed, plundered by Babylon, and the people of Judah were carried off to captivity for seventy years.

     Yet, amazingly, before that final destruction took place, and before the captivity began, Jeremiah (God’s prophet) foretold that after seventy years of captivity they would be brought back again to their land and to Jerusalem and that Jerusalem would be rebuilt.  God spoke through Jeremiah before it happened that God would bring them back.  We read in verse 10 of Jeremiah 30:   “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel:  for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.”  It is reiterated in verses 16 and 17 of Jeremiah 30:   “Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.  For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.”  God foretold that they would be returned.

     But not only would they come back to their land.  God says to them in verses 18 and 19, upon which we focus now, that God would rebuild Jerusalem upon her own heaps, and that the people of Jerusalem would no longer dwell in tents but would dwell in a city well-builded, and the palace (or the temple) of the city would also be rebuilt.

     When Jeremiah foretold all these things, he foretold, first of all, that Jerusalem was to be in ruins and to be laid upon an heap.  Now we should imagine those pictures that distressed us so — the pictures of the Twin Towers and of the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, Ground Zero — as the towers imploded, the steel twisted, the concrete was pulverized, and all the colors of carpet and marble and paint and tile became gray.  Ruins!  Jerusalem and the temple of Solomon would be brought to that kind of ruin. 

     That temple, you recall, was the pride of God’s people.  Jerusalem was a city, the excellences of which the psalmist could sing in Psalm 48:   “Beautiful for situation; the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion.”  Again, in Psalm 125 and 121.  It was a wondrous city.  It was a place where the people of God would gather together in the worship of the living and true God.  The temple of Solomon was built there.  There, at that temple and in Jerusalem, God’s people felt the presence of the living God.  There they feasted upon God’s promises that He would send the Messiah, a Christ who would be the Savior of the church.  And there they would humbly bow in thankfulness for God’s blessing.

     Jerusalem was noted for its strength and for its power.  No one had ever been able to conquer it.  It was a great stronghold.  But owing to their own sins, as they had fallen away from the Lord, as the people of Judah had neglected God’s commandments in their own lives, Jerusalem would be taken by Nebuchadnezzar, the city would be made a heap of ruin, and the temple would be destroyed.  Because they had treasured the life and the idols of the world around them, God would send judgment and would pull down their city and temple into ruins.  It would become a mass of ruins.

     This is very significant.  As I was saying, this is expressive of the truth of salvation and is a picture of yourself as you are due to your sin.  The Scriptures of truth tell us that in this arrogant age man is a ruined sinner before God.  The Bible will tell you that you are not an animal gradually stretching out and reaching for something higher through evolution.  The Bible will tell you that you are not leaving low and base animalistic urges and becoming a noble and great thing.  No, the Bible will say to you that you are, as a human being, of yourself, a ruinous heap.  You are smoldering ruins of what you were first created in Adam to be — not only the ruins of the outward, but the ruin of the soul, so that now man, born of a woman, is vile and wretched and fallen before God as a sinner.  That is the state of man.  Man ( Psalm 8) was made excellent.  He was made excellent in Adam to glorify God.  But through sin, mankind is utterly ruined and morally corrupt.  That is true also of you personally.  That is the message of God’s Word. 

Through sin, mankind is utterly ruined
and morally corrupt.
That is true also of you personally. 

     The message of God’s Word goes on to tell us that sin is ruinous also in the lives of the people of God, of those who are brought to faith and repentance.  We experience that sin breaks down.  Sin mars and brings to ruin our life.  It renders our life as a heap of ruin.  We were made stewards of the Lord’s goods.  But our hearts have become greedy and twisted and we seek to live for and out of earthly things rather than out of God.  Our hearts were made pure and holy.  But that is lost, and now by sin we are filled with lust and impurity.  We were made, originally, honest — to speak the truth after God.  But now our hearts are devious in lies.  We were made to love.  But instead of loving, we are by nature cruel, and we think the worst of others.  Marriage was created as a great good from God, but in our sin it is turned into war and hurt and fractions.  Family was created as a great and wonderful good of God, but now, due to sin, it is filled with jealousy and anger and abuse and resentment.  Ruinous heaps.  Do you see it?  All that God created good and upright — now, due to the power of sin, what has come of them?  All cast down; all in a ruinous heap.

     Think of the temple of your soul, your heart, your innermost sanctuary, that holy place where the first man Adam held communion with God.  What about that holy place of your heart now, created to be an edifice of the love of God?  What dwells there?  Jesus said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).   And Jeremiah says in chapter 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” 

     This is hopeless of ourselves.  It was a hopeless situation for the people of Judah for sure.  They had no ability to deliver themselves from Nebuchadnezzar.  They had no ability to return out of their captivity.  They were in a hopeless situation.  But have you reached the realization, by the grace of God, of your helplessness and hopelessness?  By the grace of God, do you know the power of your own sin?  Obviously you do not, as a child of God, if you play with your sin.  As you see your sin, do you think that the solution is simply that you should turn over a new leaf, that you need a fresh start, a new marriage, a new partner?  Can you build up upon the ruins of your sin?  Can you create anything good out of the ruin of your own nature?  The Bible proclaims to us, “We are as a ruinous heap.  We are dead in sin.” 

     But it is into such a situation that the message of God came through Jeremiah:  “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Judah, … and I will raise up her dwelling places, and the city shall be filled again.”  And it happened.  God did bring the people of Judah back as He had said:  seventy years afterwards He brought them back to the city of Jerusalem.  Zerubbabel was their leader.  Later on, their prophets were Haggai and Zechariah.  And still later on, the man Nehemiah came and the temple was rebuilt and the walls of Jerusalem once again stood forth.  On the very site of the old city, where the ruins had been, there God, by grace, built up Jerusalem again.  And all of it was from God — absolutely all of it His work.

     So the gospel of Jesus Christ also comes to us that, by the grace of God, God restores us.  God brings us out of the ruin of sin.  You see, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a manual of instructions telling you how to build your life by your own will and abilities.  The gospel is not a do-it-yourself list of ten ways to connect with God.  But the gospel is the proclamation of what God has done in Jesus Christ to bring salvation to pass and of how God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).  Therefore the gospel is a glorious thing.  It is a great thing.  It is a stupendous thing.  God, in the gospel, does not hold out a mere possibility that things could be a little better for us.  God does not hold out an invitation to us, dead sinners, to add something to the mix.  God has done His part (He wants to help), and now if we add our contribution to the pile, maybe we can build together.  That is not the gospel.  But the gospel is the victory that is attained by Jesus Christ on the cross.  The gospel is the promise that God will implant in the hearts of His children the life of Jesus Christ.  You see, the gospel is not a veneer on life.  It is the power of God unto salvation.  The gospel is not a social scheme.  The gospel is not a pitch to do better and to add moralisms to your life.  But the gospel is a glorious thing.  The gospel declares to us how God will build up, out of the rubble of sin, a church, a body of Jesus Christ, fit unto eternal glory — how God is going to make a heavenly Jerusalem and a new temple out of His people, where He will dwell among them forever and ever. 

The gospel is not a do-it-yourself list
of ten ways to connect with God. 

     But you ask, “How will God do that?”  Well, God does that through the grace that is given in Jesus Christ.  God does that entirely of grace.  He does it.

     He does it, first of all, by redeeming us from our sins, by taking us out of the captivity and the guilt of our sin.  He does that through the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross.  That is the cross of Jesus Christ.  He was there to bear away guilt.  He was there to make a payment for the penalty that our sin deserved. 

     But there is more.  There are some who think that the whole gospel is simply that God forgives our sins.  Although it is true that God can erase our sins and forgive them, that is not where the gospel stops.  For after the wreckage has been removed, there must be building, there must be restoration.  If the wreckage is removed from a site where there has been a terrible disaster, and if that site is simply left vacant, what happens?  Well, weeds grow and all types of crime flourish.  But the gospel proclaims that not only will the ruins of sin be removed, not only will the guilt of sin be pardoned, but God will build us up in Jesus Christ.  He will inhabit us by the Holy Spirit so that we now, created in Christ Jesus as Christians, are able to fight against our sin, to repent, and to live to His glory.  That is a Christian.  A Christian is not simply someone who has had his sin forgiven.  That is true.  But a Christian is so much more.  A Christian is one who is made alive in Jesus Christ.  Christians no longer live their life alienated from God, resenting God, hating God.  But they live their life, by grace, submitting to God and desiring that their whole life be built up to the honor and to the praise of God.

     The result will be thanksgiving to God in our life.  Jeremiah says that “out of them (out of the people of God) shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry.”  The idea that is presented is that out of the rebuilt city of Jerusalem will come an irrepressible and spontaneous eruption of thanksgiving to God.  As you would draw near to this city you would hear happy sounds, people laughing, joy in the air, merriment. 

     And that is the test of the gospel also.  When you have truly heard the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ in your heart, then you will respond with thanks.  It must come out of your heart.  Yes, I know, sometimes, as children of God, we are burdened and tried, we are weary and grieved.  But yet, when we taste the grace of God, when we have been forgiven, and when we are made to be His children, then we will also respond in thanksgiving to God.   

When you have truly heard the gospel
of the grace of Jesus Christ in your heart,
then you will respond with thanks. 

     And the blessings are even more.  God says, through Jeremiah, that He would multiply them.  The population of the city would spread out.  God’s city would be populated.  And God also does that among us.  For the promise to believers is that God will also be with their children and children’s children and work His grace in the hearts of believers’ children.  God’s promise is that He will send forth His Word throughout the world and gather to Himself a church so that Jerusalem shall be populated.  That is the church, God’s people and kingdom in Jesus Christ shall not be few. 

     That is the gospel.  The gospel tells us what God has done.  He has taken us who are on the heaps and ruins of sin and He has forgiven us and made us into a new and holy people — a temple of God, a body of Jesus Christ.  He has created the church out of the ruins of sin.  And the gospel declares that God shall further glorify us in the final kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  At the end of the world, when Christ comes yet once more and makes all things new, then the church shall be with God in the new heavens and earth forever and ever. 

     We ask, but why will He do all this?  The answer is:  God’s grace.  This is what God purposed to do for His own honor and for the glory of His name.  When you hear that gospel, and when it comes to you personally through the power of God’s Word, then there shall be in your life an eruption of thanks — of thanks to God for His mercy.  And then you will ask Him, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

     Let us pray. 

     Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  And we pray that it may be written upon our hearts and expressed in lives of thankfulness and praise to Thy name.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.